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Everything and More

timothy posted more than 10 years ago | from the goes-to-eleven dept.

Books 290

Chris Cowell-Shah writes "If David Foster Wallace can't explain infinity to us, nobody can. At least, that's what I told myself while anxiously waiting for his Everything and More: A Compact History of Infinity. The book promised to be an intellectual history of the mathematical concept of infinity, with heavy doses of history, math, and philosophy. And while it proves heavy going at times, I'm pleased to say that it delivers admirably on this promise." Read on for Cowell-Shah's lengthy review of Everything and More.

Wallace may be best known for his footnotes. Virtually everything he has written from his strange but mesmerizing novel Infinite Jest to his hilarious essay about cruise ships (the title work in A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again) to his oddly gripping treatise on the philosophy of dictionaries ("Tense Present" in the April 2001 issue of Harper's)has been liberally sprinkled with footnotes. And what footnotes! Many go on wild tangents. Some contain sub- or sub-sub-footnotes. Others are the length of novellas and could legitimately be reprinted separately from the main work. My point is that Wallace is, at heart, a scholar. He's interested in details. Combine this with an impressive background in math and logic (though he modestly claims a "medium-strong amateur interest in math and formal systems"), and he would seem to make the perfect tour guide for infinity, a concept that seems simple enough on the surface but which we generally suspect is far more complex than we realize.

The Book's Audience and Aims

DFW (an overabundance of abbreviations is one of his most prominent literary tics, and I'll follow his lead) calls Everything and More (henceforth EAM) "a piece of pop technical writing" for "readers who do not have pro-grade technical backgrounds." But the fact of the matter is that to truly follow and understand all (or even most) of his points, one needs to know a lot of math. I'm probably typical of the average reader of EAM: I went through the standard two-year calculus cycle in high school and college, and though most of it made sense at the time, these days I generally double-check my long division. While I've had a fair amount of tertiary-level logic and formal systems coursework while studying computer science and philosophy, even those subjects have grown fuzzy with time. But I am interested in this stuff, and I have the patience and analytical practice to wade through almost any argument or proof, so I would guess that my experience with EAM is pretty close to that of most Slashdot readers.

I should note that this work is really an extended essay rather than a book. Granted, it's a 300-page essay, but that's the term DFW insists on and it seems appropriate given the lack of chapters. The only structure is provided by relatively unhelpful section headers like "4b," and the work sometimes seems to lack convenient breaking points where the reader can pause to catch a breath. This is not a criticism, but the style of the essay does demand that the reader do his best to stay aware of where he is in the overall story of infinity and to be prepared for occasional gaps in the narrative thread. Read this like a math proof with lots of reviewing and re-reading and comparing of earlier and later claims and you should do all right. It's also worth pointing out that the word "history" in the essay's subtitle is important. DFW's goal is mainly to chronicle the ways in which early and not-so-early mathematicians approached the concept of infinity, rather than to explain what infinity is useful for or to give us new ways of thinking about the term. It will probably never have the same mass appeal that more colorful but less difficult books like James Gleick's Chaos or Douglas Hofstadter's Gödel, Escher, Bach have enjoyed, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. DFW has a narrower and more technical aim, and he generally hits his target.

What EAM Covers

It's probably better to think of the essay as a series of loosely related arguments and observations rather than a single mathematical story. With this in mind, let's go through some of the essay's sections. DFW opens by discussing what it means to engage in abstract thinking, then investigates the Principle of Induction (a crucial element in the development of infinity) and explains Euclid's proof that there is no largest prime. He (re-)introduces us to a number of high school math concepts, including such things as reductio ad absurdum proofs and the difference between modus ponens and modus tollens. This refresher is very helpful; I consider the book's opening section to be worth the price of admission all by itself.

Once we've got these preliminary concepts under our belt, DFW starts in with ancient Greek philosophers and mathematicians and begins constructing a vast pyramid of mathematical ideas that will eventually support Georg Cantor's notion of infinity at its tip. This nineteenth century German mathematician is the central figure in the book (to the extent that there is one), and DFW makes it clear early on that we're ultimately moving toward his ideas and his vision of infinity. A quick tour through the Greeks covers Pythagoras, Zeno's paradoxes, Aristotle's demolition thereof, and Plato's theory of forms. It's at this point that we are introduced to fascinating questions of mathematical epistemology and ontology, questions that were first mulled over by the Greeks but that remain largely unsettled even today. For example, what do we have to know in order to really know and understand a mathematical concept? And do numbers exist external to people (the Platonist view), or are they purely human constructs (the Intuitionist stance)?

DFW skips ahead to the seventeenth century, where he showcases Galileo's ideas in Two New Sciences and leads us through some of Newton's and Leibniz's independent contributions to the development of calculus. A wonderful discussion of the archetype of the insane mathematician follows (he makes the unsurprising claim that very few world-class mathematicians were terribly well-adjusted). He then chronicles the intellectual shift from math being thought of as empirical (grounded in actual things) to abstract (based on intangibles and relations between them). He does a good job of explaining how this abstraction works surprisingly well when applied to real problems (especially in engineering and physics). It's at this point (in section five of seven) that the mathematical heavy lifting begins. DFW delves deeper into calculus and the notion of limits, and significantly more mental energy is required if the reader wishes to follow carefully. Fortunately, close scrutiny isn't strictly required; even skimming this portion and picking up the thread again in section six yields good results. Now winding down, DFW introduces us to Fourier series and steps through Cantor's delightful diagonalization/denumeration proofs of the mind-warping claims that there are the same number of whole numbers as integers as rationals, and that the cardinality of the reals is larger than the cardinality of any of these other sets. A short excursis into set theory (like most of the rest of the book, it's thrown at us semi-haphazardly rather than being systematically presented), a longish explanation of Cantor's Continuum Hypothesis (a claim about the relations between the various "sizes" of infinity), and we're done. Exhausted and probably more than a little confused, but done.

EAM as a Mathematical History

There are two ways to judge EAM: as a work of mathematical history, and as a piece of English prose. I consider it adequately successful when viewed in the first light, but exemplary when viewed in the second. The math side of the book is probably best assessed by presenting a scattershot collection of my impressions, so let's start with those.

DFW is, in the main, aware of which portions will pose particular trouble for most readers. The prose is peppered with phrases like "Now you can probably feel a headache starting" or "Here's one of those places where it's simply impossible to tell whether what's just been said will make sense to a general reader," which are usually accompanied by extra explanations or illustrations to clarify the point just made. As an amateur mathematician, he may in fact be better at empathizing with his readers' difficulties than many professors are. It's hard to imagine the following passage (with its awestruck tone) appearing in a math textbook or college calculus lecture:

"Let's pause to consider the vertiginous levels of abstraction involved here. If the human CPU cannot apprehend or even really conceive of infinity, it is now apparently being asked to countenance an infinity of infinities, an infinite number of individual members of which are themselves not finitely expressible, all in an interval [0-1] so finite- and innocent-looking we use it in little kids' classrooms. All of which is just resoundingly weird."

As an example of how he leads readers around conceptual landmines, DFW is especially careful to steer us away from thinking that infinity is just a really large number. He invites us instead to consider it and its cousins to be entirely different sorts of objects than finite numbers, with very different properties. This segues into a first-rate explanation of how infinity-related paradoxes (including Zeno's famous arrow paradoxes) often go away, or more properly, cannot be meaningfully stated, once we stop treating infinity as a normal number or (for certain paradoxes) once we are clear on the difference between zero and nothing (or "not applicable"). These are nonobvious points that I had never considered, but which make perfect sense once carefully laid out and illustrated. Resolving these paradoxes turns out to be a crucial propelling force in the history of infinity: "By this point you've almost certainly discerned the Story of Infinity's overall dynamic, whereby certain paradoxes give rise to conceptual advances that can handle those original paradoxes but in turn give rise to new paradoxes, which then generate further conceptual advances, and so on."

Even if you're relatively uninterested in the concept of infinity, DFW's broad and extraordinarily literate survey of concepts like abstractness, limits, and induction make the book worthwhile. He does an especially good job of explaining the nature of abstraction and why abstract thinking is so difficult. The essay is replete with facts not directly relevant to infinity but still interesting to the scientifically inclined. For example, it turns out that 5 x 10^-44 seconds is generally acknowledged to be the smallest interval in which the normal concept of continuous time applies. And Bremermann's Limit (2.56 x 20^92) is the theoretical limit of the number of bits of information that could have been processed by the most powerful computer that could exist on earth (a computer with the mass of the earth that has existed as long as the earth). Problems involving more data than this (such can be found in statistical physics) are considered transcomputable, or not computable in any meaningful sense. These geeky trivia won't improve your life in any way, but it does stave off some of the inevitable monotony of pure math writing.

DFW has lots to say about mathematical pedagogy, including this harsh indictment:

"Rarely do math classes ever tell us whether a certain formula is truly significant, or why, or where it came from, or what was at stake.... And, of course, rarely do students think to ask the formulas alone take so much work to 'understand' (i.e., to be able to solve problems correctly with), we often aren't aware that we don't understand them at all. That we end up not even knowing that we don't know is the really insidious part of most math classes."

Perhaps this concern for how math is taught leads him to focus his efforts strictly on core concepts rather than on the biographical gossip so often found in popular science writing. There are some fun notes about Cantor's personal life, but he's the only one who gets an extended biographical exegesis. This appears to be a conscious and reasoned decision on his part rather than an oversight ("Again, most of this personal stuff we're skipping") and I think it is a wise strategic move in that it keeps the reader's attention focused and undistracted.

As expected, this work does indeed swim in a sea of footnotes. DFW fans would be disappointed in anything less, but I have to confess to lightly skimming most of the footnotes after the first third of the essay. The most difficult or technical notes are marked "IYI" (for "If You're Interested"), but even the non-IYIspasm notes are full of some pretty thorny math; I found that they often proved more confusing than helpful. But readers more familiar with the subject matter might appreciate the additional historical context and suggestions for further exploration provided in the footnotes.

Overall, EAM is more successful at explaining the small problems, paradoxes, and steps in the creation of infinity than it is at stringing them all together into a coherent, easily followed, transparently structured whole. As an example of how well DFW deals with the small-scale issues, consider the following mind-boggling concept. It is of course impossible to fully wrap your mind around this sort of thing, but in the text that follows this quotation he does a sterling job of steering us toward comprehension:

"The Number Line is obviously infinitely long and comprises an infinity of points. Even so, there are just as many points in the interval 0-1 as there are on the whole Number Line. In fact, there are as many points in the interval .00000000001-.00000000002 as there are on the whole N. L. It also turns out that there are as many points in the above micro-interval (or one one-quadrillionth its size, if you like) as there are on a 2D plane, even if that plane is infinitely larger in any 3D shape, or in all of infinite 3D space itself."

On a similar theme, DFW gives a brilliantly simple and utterly convincing explanation of the cortex-withering claim that "the number of points in the closed-interval [0,1] is ultimately equal to the infinity of points on the whole Real Line stretching infinitely in both directions." But (and this is my biggest criticism) this essay really has to be read twice (or more) to get anywhere near full comprehension of the material. In this respect, it's a lot like an extended math proof or a very long philosophy paper. Repeated exposure makes it easier to follow the narrative flow and string the arguments and proofs together into a consistent thread of thought rather than isolated, self-contained concepts.

EAM as a Literary Work

As mentioned above, where EAM really shines is not as a math history, but rather as an example of pure writing. DFW's prose is clear, precise, witty, and creative. His literary idiosyncrasies may be an acquired taste, but once the reader gets used to the aesthetic feel of the essay it becomes hard not to consider it a stylistic tour de force. In many ways this doesn't feel like a math book at all. This is perhaps not surprising given that the author is, after all, mainly a novelist. He loves to make up words, use obscure words, or use common words in strange new ways. Your appreciation for this style will vary depending on your tolerance for neologisms like homodontic (meaning "having only a single type of tooth") or epistoschizoid (meaning, well, your guess is as good as mine), or unusual punctuation (Does he really need parentheses nested inside of other parentheses? As it turns out, yes.). But you also get exposed to real (and entertaining) words like clonic (involving muscle spasms -- nothing to do with clones), cephalalgia (headache), and peruke (the goofy hats worn by Dutch burghers in seventeenth century portraits). Sometimes it doesn't quite work (What does "We are now once again sort of out over our skis, chronologically speaking" mean? Anyone?), but the overall effect is a refreshing and fun change of pace from standard math or science writing.

DFW uses shorthand to an almost pathological degree. This takes some getting used to, but ultimately it makes his text wonderfully compact (OK, his sentences can be almost unparsably long, but he packs a ton of content into each one) and produces virtually no loss of comprehension. The text is sprinkled with abbreviations like "w/r/t" for "with respect to" and useful sentence fragments like "Meaning it doesn't seem logically impossible or anything," and "Goes on forever." This sort of shorthand is pervasive, but really is more of a help than a hindrance. They may not be everyone's cup of tea, but informal parenthetical phrases such as "they're reversed from the axes in the motion-type graphs you're apt to have had in school (long story; good reasons)" are usually very helpful and inject a nicely colloquial tone into a topic that is traditionally treated in the most formal (and dullest) of styles. Descriptions like this are what keep you going when the math gets tough:

"[T]he whole enterprise becom[es] such a towering baklava of abstractions and abstractions of abstractions that you pretty much have to pretend that everything you're manipulating is an actual, tangible thing or else you get so abstracted that you can't even sharpen your pencil, much less do any math."

Everything and More: A Compact History of Infinity is more or less what its title promises. I found it well worth the (not insignificant) effort to plow through, and I recommend it to anyone interested in mathematical and/or intellectual history, or to anyone curious about how difficult mathematical concepts can be discussed in a lively and engaging way. While most readers won't be able to follow all of the subtleties of his arguments with just one pass through the text, a single pass can still be well worthwhile. Those looking for an introduction to David Foster Wallace would be better served by one of his less difficult books (I especially recommend A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again), but for fans of his more technical, scholarly essays, this book is a welcome arrival.


Chris Cowell-Shah is a consultant with Accenture Technology Labs, the R&D branch of Accenture. His website is cowell-shah.com. You can purchase Everything and More: A Compact History of Infinity from bn.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

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I read it (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615323)

I found it a bit short. I expected infinity to be longer.

Cue Homer:: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615334)

phphpbbt, books.

my bwain huwts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615335)


Read on for Cowell-Shah's lengthy review of Everything and More"

Well of course it's lengthy, the book is about infinity, silly.

And..... the Poll of the Day... (-1, Offtopic)

LBArrettAnderson (655246) | more than 10 years ago | (#8615336)

Who's the hottest editor?

Cum Taco [calcgames.org]
Michael [calcgames.org]
Timothy [calcgames.org]
CowboyNeal [calcgames.org]
Other [calcgames.org]

Infinity: (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615342)

Three lines longer than the review.

Re:Infinity: (1)

rasafras (637995) | more than 10 years ago | (#8615562)

Or four lines longer than the review. Or five lines longer than the review. Or six...

well (0, Troll)

FS1 (636716) | more than 10 years ago | (#8615343)

i guess i will be reading this never.

Readers might also enjoy (4, Interesting)

graveyhead (210996) | more than 10 years ago | (#8615346)

Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea [amazon.com]

Sounds similar in concept, though from the review, it seems to me like the Zero book is a lighter read.

Re:Readers might also enjoy (4, Funny)

graveyhead (210996) | more than 10 years ago | (#8615393)

Whoops :)
the Zero book is a lighter read.

No pun intended.

Impromptu "Ask SlashMath" (1)

WTFmonkey (652603) | more than 10 years ago | (#8615508)

Brings up an interesting (to me, at least) point: which came first, the idea of zero, or of infinity?

I don't think this is as simple as a monkey-case of "I have ALL the food" versus "I'm starving," but more of a rigorously defined "This is mathematical zero" and "This is mathematical infinity." I'd be interested in hearing from a (certified?) Mathematical Historian about when/where/under-what-circumstances each of these ideas evolved.

Re:Impromptu "Ask SlashMath" (1)

benwb (96829) | more than 10 years ago | (#8615560)

The greeks did not have the mathematical concept of 0. They thought of infinity, but didn't like it and excluded it from their mathematics.

Re:Readers might also enjoy (1)

Best ID Ever! (712255) | more than 10 years ago | (#8615514)

I've read that! And it was a light read, but very interesting and highly entertaining as well. It's difficult to imagine not having zero as a number, or the idea of it being controversial, but that's how it actually was.

GNAA shitflood (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615361)

That's right, you are being shitflooded. Join irc.gnaa.us and channel #gnaa for more details. 68526718

WHY TELL THEM? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615423)

you stupid ass... If you'd just let the shitflood go without announcement you could watch the mods piss away their points modding everything 'offtopic'.

YOU TARD-ASS TARD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615597)

It's a verifiable fact that the mods don't mod this crapflood shit down, but the editors do. I mean, if you had unlimited mod points, wouldn't you use the shit out of 'em? It's a crapflood for crapflood's sake, that's all. None of your everyday typical readers even notice.

I repeat, none of your typical everyday readers even notice this jizz. It's just we "easily entertained" who read at -1 that notice. Fuck 'em, they're not hurting anything.

GNAA shitflood (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615362)

That's right, you are being shitflooded. Join irc.gnaa.us and channel #gnaa for more details. 83797934

GNAA shitflood (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615367)

That's right, you are being shitflooded. Join irc.gnaa.us and channel #gnaa for more details. 95669388

Date in the story? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615369)

Perhaps a date in the story would have been more useful, since "As of 8:15 PM EST" is now just highly misleading. That 8:15PM EST was on Friday, March 12. This story is making it sound like it's been down for days, but in reality it was just a few short hours.

This story isn't even relevant at this point.

I smell trouble. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615370)

I can only envision one of two possibilities for how this is going to turn out: (1) The most amazing thing ever, or (2) The biggest flop in the history of the musical theatre.

The problem is that, for the most part, really epic stories are simply not endemic to the musical theatre art form. How many have there been? And, of those, how many have truly been successful? Even theatre epics, like Show Boat or Les Miserables are still pretty small in scope when compared to something The Lord of the Rings because they focus pretty pointedly on people, whereas LOTR is about big events, big stakes, and even larger plot points.

Shrinking the story down to where it would it would on the musical stage, and still leave room for the things every play needs (exposition, characterization, and, probably most importantly, songs) would be almost impossible under the best circumstances, and most of the people involved simply aren't of the proven calibre necessary to pull all this off. Sure, A.R. Rahman had some kind of a success with Bombay Dreams, but what in Matthew Warchus's resume suggests he's even remotely qualified to handle something on this scale? He's talented, yes, but not with material of this size. His solution to staging one of Broadway's most traditionally opulent musicals--Follies--on Broadway in 2001 was to strip away everything that made it so oversized and, in its original production, so thrilling. If you do that with The Lord of the Rings, what's left?

So, while I wish them the best of luck, they're really facing a difficult struggle, and I'm not sure they will be able to pull it off. Under most circumstances, I would suggest that they rework the idea as an opera, or perhaps a series of operas, but of course, Richard Wagner already did that with Der Ring des Nibeluengen, and the less comparison The Lord of the Rings has with that, the better, I think. It will be unavoidable in any case, but critics (and audiences) will have their knives sharpened going into this, and it will have to be even that much better to win them over. I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy the challenges facing the creators of this musical.

Thanks, Tim. (-1, Offtopic)

lemon parties (761941) | more than 10 years ago | (#8615371)

It is posts like these that make me want to blow my huge load all over the place.
Timothy+1

GNAA shitflood (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615374)

That's right, you are being shitflooded. Join irc.gnaa.us and channel #gnaa for more details. 47689549

GNAA shitflood (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615375)

That's right, you are being shitflooded. Join irc.gnaa.us and channel #gnaa for more details. 69817024

music/audio on linux: (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615376)

While I know that this is more of a compositing program--at least from what I read so far...as I have shamefully not RTFA--I'm going to take this opportunity to bitch about the one thing that has been keeping me from making the switch to GNAA/Linux for all these years:

Audio Apps


I'm no industry elitist that demands ProTools. in fact, I hate protools. The interface leaves much to be desires...granted, i'll buffer that (admittedly harsh) opinion: I'm a huge fan of CoolEditPro.....("eww, PC audio"...I can hear it already),

The underlying audio subsystems are a far cry from what windows offers. And what I experienced with in my limiting dealings with aRTS leaves much to be desired. (Think: latency) And I'm sure that has a lot to do with it....(why hasn't ASIO or an equiv been implemented yet?)

Aside from that all I ask for is a simple audio production suite where i can record something, and then playback and record something else. Simple full-duplex operation. I've been doing it in Windows for over 7 years now.....hell, I did it in DOS with my GUS 11 years ago.

Toss in a little simple single-track editing, some simple effects (Chorus/Flange, Dynamics processing, simple verb and delay, etc) and maintain development of the project and you've won yourself a full-fledged permenent windows convert.....and i'm willing to bet I'm not the only one.

Am I just out of touch? Is there already software out there that does this?

~Dan

Re:Lots of them are... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615379)

"it may still have profitable applications in other areas (ie, prosthetics)."

YES! At last I will be able to get new artificial lips and be able to play the trumpet again!
--

hi. I'm Troy McClure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615381)

Hi. I'm Troy McClure. You might remember me from such infinity-related movies as "The Neverending Story" and "ELP: Welcome Back my Friends to the Show That Never Ends - The Movie".

GNAA shitflood (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615384)

That's right, you are being shitflooded. Join irc.gnaa.us and channel #gnaa for more details. 9426483

GNAA shitflood (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615385)

That's right, you are being shitflooded. Join irc.gnaa.us and channel #gnaa for more details. 77164504

GNAA shitflood (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615386)

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Re:GNAA shitflood (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615424)

purple monkey dishwasher

GNAA shitflood (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615388)

That's right, you are being shitflooded. Join irc.gnaa.us and channel #gnaa for more details. 23784885

I for one...... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615396)

Welcome our new, jazzier, robot overlords....

(sorry someone had to)

Less difficult? (4, Funny)

Best ID Ever! (712255) | more than 10 years ago | (#8615400)

less difficult books like James Gleick's Chaos or Douglas Hofstadter's Godel, Escher, Bach

If GEB is less difficult, count me out!

Infinity (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615406)

Think of all the grains of sand on earth as a universe full of sand and as all that sand as more universes full of even more sand. That's not infinity but it's a hell of a lot of sand.

Better things to do.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615411)

I dont normally hang around in the coffee shop to listen to enough music that I would want it burnt onto disk for me. There might be an odd occasion when you come across some music playing that you might like, normally asking the guy behind the counter and then getting it where i normally get my music.

I say its a fair bet that this service wont recover the money they need to put into it to start off, not to mention the training cost of training all those 18 year olds who barely know enough to do a decent cup of coffee.

Re:It's a Kuiper object... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615412)

No. Charon is slightly smaller than Quaoar.

Sedna is over 4 times the size (volume) of Quaoar.

Whether it's a planet is a silly argument, but even so, "we already have Quaoar" is really irrelevant.

To mod or to post. Spam is the question. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615419)

You *WILL* get spam my friend. I've been doing this for almost 20 years (admin) now -- and have specifically used aliased accounts for various reasons over the years as you are doing.

Wait... You'll be interested to know that the biggest problem with the spam coming in comes from virus infected Windows boxes. They send it. They harvest the users Outlook address book. If you ever end up in somebody's Outlook box ... it only a matter of time before you're screwed.

I chuckle at the whole Exchange thing. You pay for that?

I personally pay to have a fixed IP @ home and run a old GNAA/Linux box. A lot of aliases I've used over the years (and some blatantly used to harvest) all go to some local account that processes the spam. Upon receipt -- mail the wrong account and sorry, but you're blocked (unless white-listed). White-listing can come from valid already received email -- but I work everything based off of IP. My hope is that the registered MX host(s) or any valid listed server by the authenticating DNS server will be the type of scheme that's re-implemented (or more to the point SHOE-horned in real soon :). Bill's idea of email stamps, well, hahahahaha...

Over the last decade I've now got 380 aliased harvesting spam address' in use -- two valid email accounts @ home (my wife and myself) which is on my own IP with my own domain. I pay $5 extra a month above my broadband (10Mbit, 380 harvested address', and 48 for various other infractions (attempts to relay through me, from a country where I know nobody, etc :).

Statistically (yeah, they all get nmap'd back)? 96% Windows based.

I give my email to friends. I have a work email that anybody that knows how to call me can have it. I even print it on my business card. No, I wouldn't post it to USENET or even here -- but it's still "out there". My unlisted phone number, OTOH, anybody can have. 847.854.0048. It's always busy and one channel of my ISDN home line. The other channel routes to the house for two phone lines (or Internet backup if and as needed) and is automatically unlisted and unpublished (at no cost since it is a "data circuit") -- and no, I'd rather not post that either. :)

Exchange? Never!

Sounds good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615426)

Now I'm no musical afficionado, having only been to one London musical - We Will Rock You [queenonline.com] - but there's a certain magic (no pun intended) I experienced that can not be acheived through film (that's not to say films are inferior, it's more of an apples and oranges comparison). With a big budget like that, I'm sure the stage props, effects and costumes will be fantastic and will portray the LOTR trilogy through yet another medium. Sure, the purists might complain that Bombadil's left foot was uncharacteristically two inches too far to the right, but for the fans that actually see natural light, then they'll be in for a treat.

What's next, a ten part HBO miniseries?

Cool (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615427)

I have been looking at the MM10 (the older version) as a small GNAA/Linux computer for some months now and the memory was always a hold up. This things solves that and then some.
The older model was small and light, but very usable. You could confortably hold it in one hand for a long time and it never got warm/hot. This was the thinnest thing I've ever seen, and the smallest without seeming to sacrifice on usability (close to sacrifice though).
I might just have get one and see about running GNAA/Linux on this little guy.

Whose laws govern the Internet? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615434)

Different countries/governments/political systems have different laws concerning freedom of expression, privacy, property rights, etc.

How can it be possible to create one set of rules that can apply to all nations with regards to Internet access?

What happened to the naming convetion? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615435)

I thought planets were Roman gods. It's not even like we've run out of them. We can still find Vulcan (Mulciber if you want to avoid rabit Trekkies), Juno, Minerva, Apollo (You can call this one Phoebus if you want to avoid confusing it with space probes), Diana, Vesta.

And that's before you start getting slightly obscure ones like Janus, Bacchus (Or Liber), Fanus, Quirinus, Pomona, or Vertumnus.

The GNAA is gay (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615445)

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best way to illustrate infinity? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615446)

write a book that never ends.....

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bingo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615463)

i think they do quite a bit in the hope of luring customers and getting them to linger to maybe buy a second round or other stuff. they play music, provide tables outside, sell newspapers, easy bwireless access.... i'm not that wild about their coffee buy will pay extra not to be told to leave right away.:)

also i suspect starbucks feels pressure to continually reinvent itself rather be perceived as yesterday's coffee news. notice how mcdonalds introduces new items of dubious value to get some buzz and quietly drops them later. (or such is my impression, i don't eat there anymore.)

now if only starbucks could make coffee that didn't taste burnt. i like underdogs, good luck peet's. we have an indy coffee place nearby that has *couches* and wireless..... i doubt the chains will go this far, that's just a bit too inviting.

Re:Infinium a hardware vendor? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615468)

I can't think of a more unfortunate name than the "phantom console" other than the "vaporware console"... seriously who comes up with this stuff.

If they tried to sue me I'd call their bluff (the "phantom lawsuit") and just put quotation marks around all my stuff to humiliate them:

The ceo of the company making the *yet to be released* "phantom" console has asked us to take down our review of their business. We suggest the best thing they could do would be to give us a "phantom" console to review, but something is really haunting their company - because the "phantom console" has yet to be released to the public. Finding their "phantom offices" is also a difficult task. But perhaps we shouldn't be so hard on the CEO, he could be a visionary - this "phantom of his imagination" could bring the gaming world to it's knees. All they need to do is set a new "phantom release date" and stick to it like the slime the ghosts leave when the pass through walls in Ghost Busters. Then we will all be able to enjoy the phantoms

humiliation complete, lawsuit aborted, insert credit for more life.

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shade tree mech (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615474)

This is good news for those of us who like to tinker with our cars, too. A while back I looked into available OSS interfaces to various models. It was a moot search. You ought to be able to plug your friggin' car into the serial port of your laptop and run diagnostics on emissions, compression, etc., as a matter of course.

It should also be noted that legislation addressing this issue was originally championed by the late Sen. Paul Wellstone of MN.

It should also remind us how close we are to similarly prescribed access to the internals of a general purpose computer. Wouldn't some interests like to see a *No user serviceable parts inside. Opening case voids any warranties or EULAs associated with this machine.* sticker on your next box.

GNAA NOT RESOPNSIBLE FOR CRAPFLOOD (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615479)

a rouge group is trying to get us into trouble.

do NOT pay attention.

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Did anyone finish Infinite Jest? (0)

PornMaster (749461) | more than 10 years ago | (#8615482)

I started Infinite Jest, and found it to be obtuse and cryptic enough to give up. I'm just curious if I'm the only one.

-PM

Certified SMTP Hosts. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615484)

What would work well is SSL certified SMTP relays. If every valid SMTP relay needed an SSL certificate then, If spam was sent their SSL certificate could easily be rejected. And hosts that didn't have one at all could just be dropped.

SSL certificates are costly, and that limits everyone from having one. However, there is no reason the Open Source community could not make up our own root certficate, and have an SMTP SSL certificate signing organization. Where we verify the authenticity of someone before we give them a cert. For a small fee to cover costs. It wouldn't be like we'd have to convince Netscape, Microsoft, Apple and whoever else makes a browser to include the cert. It'd just need to be available for people hosting servers to download.

Yes, this would mean rejecting massive amounts of email to begin with. Maybe some intern solution could be thought of as people move over to it?

Ideas? Comments?

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Re:Yukon's promised features (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615487)

Yukon is finally going to deliver online restoration, database mirroring with automatic failover, and support for mirrored backup sets.

Let's face it, these features isn't something most users need. If Microsoft sees real trouble, they will simply slash the per-processor license cost by a factor of 50 or 100, and switching suddenly becomes a non-issue for most users.

Per-client licenses and awfully high per-processor licensing costs are the most important factor which motivates most users to attempt other solutions. Of course, the proprietary databases have important features which look very good on paper, but I've seen quite a few installations which use a multi-thousand dollar database as if it were MySQL (not even using online backup). You can get away with that if you only need a workgroup server license, but if you need 20,000 client access licenses (or multiple per-processor licenses), licensing becomes a problem and you'll certainly consider other options.

For a project that gets no press (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615488)

Dragonfly BSD seems to be chugging along quite nicely.

The further away they get from their 4.x FreeBSD roots, though, the more I wish they'd release an ISO. Particularly since the last ISOs for the 4 series of FreeBSD are probably going to be totally gone in a few months.

Re:That's okay (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615491)

As technically inferior MySQL is to Postgres, MySQL has a few major things going for it that ensure it's niche.

1. Easy to install on Windows. The average coder at a Windows-only farm can easily run the executable and have the latest version running on their developer box. Not all companies allow you to have multiple boxes, and many force you (via draconion security measures) to only run windows with certain software installed. Postgres NEEDS a user-friendly Win32 installer, perhaps with a similar info-item like MySQL has. This is a MUST for companies to start to take notice. Then, a PHB can even play with it and like it.

2. Marketing. While open-source, MySQL has a nice marketing engine behind it. A beautiful webpage, online and PRINT adds, and magazine and newspaper articles CONSTANTLY writing about the "little database that could" every few week / months. Postgres needs to start getting the word out, and hype it a little. Just because a product is superior, doesn't mean it will thrive. There are tons of examples out there: Beta vs VHS, Windows vs OS X, etc. For a database to be used, it must be allowed and "signed off" by a manager of some sort. Most will take reputation + support + "ooh, nice webpage" over a product that might be better, but they know nothing about it.

3. More management tools. MySQL has a couple out there that look and run great; very professional looking. This earns respect from PHB's, as they are easily misled by such niceties.

Don't get me wrong. MySQL is nice, but doesn't have what I need most (Views, triggers, etc). Postgres may not be perfect, but I think it is superior. We just need to get the word out to those "not in the know".

Re:argh! can't wait (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615492)

SQL7 was only 1.0 if you ignore versions 4.2, 6.0 and 6.5.

More difficult than GEB? (3, Informative)

AGTiny (104967) | more than 10 years ago | (#8615501)

I don't know if I even want to think about a book that is more difficult than GEB! Egads! I still haven't made it all the way through... although I do think it's a great book, just over my head in most places. :)

Re:More difficult than GEB? (1)

Best ID Ever! (712255) | more than 10 years ago | (#8615606)

Heh -- not-quite-great minds think alike! (see my above post)

Excersize control? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615503)

Excersize control: imagine your DVD playing the workout tape, and a machine monitoring your muscles as you work out. The DVD says "You need to work harder on your abs, the muscles aren't working hard enough". THAT would be cool. I know I could use it.

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Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615505)

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Some have the wrong idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615509)

This is not meant to replace a score editor!!!

Analogous to the world of word processing, this software is more in the category of software like TeX, LaTeX, or even Postscript and PDF, to a lesser extent. This is software made for pretty printing music. It is meant to do this job, and this job alone very, very well. While one could edit it directly (it's not that difficult to work with), that would be something like using a flathead screwdriver on a screw that is clearly a Philips.

What people should do is look for a score editor that can export LilyPond documents. I'll help start you off:

I'm sure there are others out there.

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Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615513)

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It's Good That It's So Good At Filtering Spam.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615520)

Now if they could only make it usable. After reading the last Slashdot article about it I decided to try and move my Amavis/ClamAV/SpamAssassin/Postfix/Courier-IMAP setup to use DSPAM. Good Lord what a configuration nightmare. I couldn't find a decent HOW-TO and no real working example configurations in order to test it out. Sure the README "has all the information I'll ever need" but some of the stuff that it talks about I don't understand and I don't have the patience to configure it through trial and error.

Developing good software is one thing. But it's a lot nicer when good software is actually usable. I'll be sticking with SpamAssassin until they can dumb it down a little.

So.... (1)

nebaz (453974) | more than 10 years ago | (#8615522)

Does 0.99999999 (repeating forever) equal 1?

fining companies does nothing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615524)


you think MS will reduce margins if they get fined or will they pass that cost to the customer either indirectly (format lockin/upgrades etc) or directly via product price increases ?

doesn't really take a MBA to work out what they will do, fining them will not punish them at all, especially with the worlds richest people at the helm.

Re:Coffee and music -- Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615530)

The biggest practical problem with selling custom CDs is that it takes time. I mean most of us get annoyed waiting for our 'coffee like beverage' from vending machines.

In reality the casual-cup-time should nicely eliminate the percieved lack of instant gratification.

Missing the point (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615532)

Creating an entire PC just to show a picture?

I agree, but you're missing most of the point- it's not the hardware, it's the concept; low-tech is best.

  • framing a picture means it was good enough to warrant said treatment. The whole point of putting up a picture frame is lost if all you show are crap photos of your dog or whatnot. Further, if I have a great photo, I want it to always be there, or at least be instantly accessible. No easy way to do that here...
  • the LCD panel won't last very long being on all day, every day; the backlights are rated for a few thousand hours tops.
  • they're horrible for viewing at anything other than dead-on; gamma and contrast change drastically from side to side or above/below
  • they need a power cord, which is fugly
  • they have vastly inferior resolution; high-resolution LCD panels aren't available anywhere except in laptops. A standard print from even, say, Walmart's digital photo lab machine...is at least 300dpi, more like 600dpi.
  • Archival photo paper, with UV-blocking glass, mounted with acid-free materials, will last decades. This toy will last about 2-3 years if it's lucky. Maybe 5.
  • at the temperatures involved (the mini-itx site lists a figure around 44C) none of the components will last very long. Hard drives especially don't like heat...

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Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615533)

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Re:i was talking to MS customer support when (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615538)

i just got hung up on, and that was approximatly the same time on friday. i was trying to get an activation code for win xp when i was disconnected from them all together. i waited a while thinking that like all good cutomer support they would call me right back because i was hung up on, but waited half an hour and called them to try to talk to the guy i was dealing with, and they told me that they were having serious internal problems. im not sure how it works, but i think MS might use some kind of internal VOIP system because there was a delay in speech with th guy i was talking to as well, but hotmail and their tech support both went down around the same time as i was informed of "major internal problems." so something big happened.

Lets get this stright. You -brought- windows XP.

Hey... you GNAA/Linux geeks get all the cool toyz! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615539)

b Why can't I get this to run on my WXP machine? I have XP Pro installed....
You linux geeks get all the good toyz!!
Darn you, Darn you to Redmond!

What do I get?

Well.. I guess I do get all the neat patches.

fzc

Paid for services down too. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615540)

Paid for services, such as MSDN subscriptions, were down as well. The real news is not that Hotmail was down, but that all Passport based services were having problems. MS has been trying hard to sell Passport as a "single sign on solution." This indicent does not help that marketing effort. This is not the first time that Passport has been out. In the past the passport domain expired and was rescued by a very nice person who registered the domain on a weekend, reinstating the service.

Re:Use in sports? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615542)

Ummm how about we use this to monitor all the athleets to see if any are using "performance enhancing drugs". it's a monitoring not enhancing thing

iPod (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615547)

Burn to cd ? Not so useful. But burn to your iPod there and then.. now *that* would be good.

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Re:It's more than just the engine (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615559)

I had a problem with my '99 cavalier; the engine would drop it's RPMs by several hundred every once in a while; almost, but not quite, enough to stall.

Took it in to the dealer, they said 'is the check engine light on?'

'Nope,' I replied, 'but here's what it's doing...'

'Sorry,' came the reply. 'If the check light's not on, there's no diagnostic codes for us to look up. We can't fix it unless we know what's wrong.'

Fair Use (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615563)

How long do you predict it will be before all rights to fair use are vanquished from the Internet?

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Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615564)

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GNAA/Linux (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615566)

Will the computers run on linux?

music/audio on linux: (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615567)

izf While I know that this is more of a compositing program--at least from what I read so far...as I have shamefully not RTFA--I'm going to take this opportunity to bitch about the one thing that has been keeping me from making the switch to GNAA/Linux for all these years:

Audio Apps


I'm no industry elitist that demands ProTools. in fact, I hate protools. The interface leaves much to be desires...granted, i'll buffer that (admittedly harsh) opinion: I'm a huge fan of CoolEditPro.....("eww, PC audio"...I can hear it already),

The underlying audio subsystems are a far cry from what windows offers. And what I experienced with in my limiting dealings with aRTS leaves much to be desired. (Think: latency) And I'm sure that has a lot to do with it....(why hasn't ASIO or an equiv been implemented yet?)

Aside from that all I ask for is a simple audio production suite where i can record something, and then playback and record something else. Simple full-duplex operation. I've been doing it in Windows for over 7 years now.....hell, I did it in DOS with my GUS 11 years ago.

Toss in a little simple single-track editing, some simple effects (Chorus/Flange, Dynamics processing, simple verb and delay, etc) and maintain development of the project and you've won yourself a full-fledged permenent windows convert.....and i'm willing to bet I'm not the only one.

Am I just out of touch? Is there already software out there that does this?

~Dan

qd

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Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615569)

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Yawn - Done way back. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615575)

r Check these links for a Duo (Laptop) mod to a picture frame. I remember this site as the first I saw. I have an old 486 and a 64MB compaq flash just waiting for a conversion.

http://www.applefritter.com/hacks/duodigitalfram e
http://www.applefritter.com/node/view/728

Duo Digital Frame by James Roos

ksh

Removing the Player Isn't the Good Part! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615581)

"The European Commission draft requires Microsoft to share proprietary information with rival server makers"

That's always my sticking point. I'm not as much bothered that they support video playback in their default system (they also support image playback and text playback, after all) as to their generally incompatible and excessively proprietary methods.

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Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615582)

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Re:Dammit (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615584)

Jeez.

Building a computer from parts might be easy for you, but that does not make it "easy". Most people can't handle it. They want to buy a computer and take it out of the box and plug it in and turn it on. This goes for PCs or Macs.

Have you used a Mac that was manufactured in the past half decade? You can use any USB mouse with them, including your seven-buttons-with-scroll-wheel optical mouse. They use PCI, AGP, ATA, and USB for expansion. They have a "taskbar", it's called the Dock.

Windows's popularity is entirely attributable to Worse is Better [jwz.org] .

Re:I wonder if this will catch what Mozilla misses (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615589)

Thunderbird's latest builds have an improved spam filter using some ideas from SpamBayes, it's substantially improved from the older filter.

Is there an infinity? (1)

Phisbut (761268) | more than 10 years ago | (#8615590)

Makes you wonder if there really is an infinity... Mankind used to believe that the universe was infinite (physical infinity), but we're getting more and more proof that it might actually be finite.

Today we believe that there is a mathematical infinity. Maybe in a few generations, a genius will discover that there is no such thing either...

Maths can be scary sometimes

Gotta ask (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615602)

Internet piracy, peer-to-peer, 'sharing mp3s'... is there any chance any of this can and will be legal? It just seems like so many geeks want it to be legal, but it requires a lawyer with a good understanding of technology to deliver the odds. So whats it gonna be? Slim to none?

GNAA shitflood (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615603)

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I for one would appreciate this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615608)

I'm a typical geek who builds custom computers for people preinstalled and preconfigured with their choice of software, and most of my clients opt for Media Player Classic rather than WMP as their default video playback thing, as far as video goes. I'm not an OEM by any means (I've only built about a dozen computers), but I'd love if customisable installs would filter down to the end users.

For those of you who don't know, Media Player Classic is an open source clone of Media Player 6.4 (the default media player shipped with Win2k), and (with the right codec libs installed) will play DVD's, avi's, wmv's, ogm's, Real and QT streams. Very nice clean and easy to use interface, and hooks into standard DirectShow codecs, none of the irritations of WMP/Real/QT, and completely free (thanks Gabest!), although donations are always welcom I imagine.

Being able to completely replace WMP with MPC would be a dream come true for me, and my clients. The only thing that worried me is that MS would take their ball home, and if made to remove Media Player they would probably cripple DirectShow to such an extent that I'd have to install WMP in order to get my codec libraries to work.

what make's the net so special? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615609)

Why is it that there "have to be" laws specific to the internet? If a spammer sends an e-mail using forged headers, why doesn't the law go after him (or her) with good old-fashioned anti-fraud laws? Does the main failing of these kinds of old laws lie in ingorance that makes law enforcement unable or unwilling to enforce the laws without further clarification, or is something else going on here?

MEEPT!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8615612)

I preferred the "Robot Orangutang" Story.

MEEPT!!
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